I would like to write more about my other chronic illnesses, not just Meniere’s. It’s just that Meniere’s has ruled my life for a long time now.
Today, I’d like to discuss what it means for me to live with Bipolar Disorder.
First I’d like to explain there are different types of Bipolar Disorder. (Formally known as Manic-Depression)
The following definitions of the different types of Bipolar Disorder is copied from the Mayo Clinic website. You can find the entire article here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bipolar-disorder/DS00356 It’s a very interesting article if you want to know more about Bipolar Disorder.
“Bipolar disorder is divided into several subtypes. Each has a different pattern of symptoms. Types of bipolar disorder include:
- Bipolar I disorder. Mood swings with bipolar I cause significant difficulty in your job, school or relationships. Manic episodes can be severe and dangerous.
- Bipolar II disorder. Bipolar II is less severe than bipolar I. You may have an elevated mood, irritability and some changes in your functioning, but generally you can carry on with your normal daily routine. Instead of full-blown mania, you have hypomania — a less severe form of mania. In bipolar II, periods of depression typically last longer than periods of hypomania.
- Cyclothymic disorder. Cyclothymic disorder, also known as cyclothymia, is a mild form of bipolar disorder. With cyclothymia, hypomania and depression can be disruptive, but the highs and lows are not as severe as they are with other types of bipolar disorder.”
There is much more to know about Bipolar Disorder, but I won’t bore you with tons of details when you can look them up. I know most of my readers like to research things. This post is more about my experiences being Bipolar.
I have Bipolar I disorder. When I would have an episode, it disrupted every part of my life. I lost jobs, relationships, once I lost the place I was living, and I almost lost my life more than once. During my episodes I would have periods of lost time. Once, I couldn’t remember almost a month of my life. Most of the episodes when I lost time were episodes of mania.
The depression episodes, sent me into the deepest darkest caverns of despair. I was convinced no one cared, and the world would be better off without me in it. I was in such agony, and couldn’t see any way out of it. I thought of suicide many times, and attempted it more than once. One time I came very close to succeeding. I was involuntarily admitted to a mental hospital for nearly 3 weeks. My best friend of 9 1/2 years and roommate decided she couldn’t take it and moved out the day I was released from the hospital. I lost my job. There were a few jobs where I lost control, was convinced my co-workers or boss were out to get me, and I walked out. With nothing to fall back on.
The mania was at times sweet. (this causes many not to stay on their medication, they miss the high of mania) I would have creative binges. I would paint for days on end, often not eating or sleeping. But it had extreme down sides. While in a manic state I didn’t think anything could hurt me. I tried drugs, I had risky sexual exploits, I spent money I didn’t have… During one manic episode I bought a Jeep, had the people at the dealership take the top down before I left the lot, and then drove to Washington, DC to meet someone I’d only talked to on the phone, or emailed. He did work for the same company I did, but in a different city. No one knew where I was going. I was lucky, when I think of what could have happened, I shudder. (BTW – it took me a long time to figure out how to put the top on my Jeep) I would get credit card bills for things I didn’t remember buying. I loved to treat people when I was manic, and I loved to buy gifts. I would meet people who knew me, but I didn’t remember them. By the time I found out I was Bipolar, I was facing bankruptcy.
At times I did what’s called rapid cycling. I’d be low one moment and high the next….over and over. It was mind boggling, and very scary for others around me. I couldn’t keep friends. Mania can turn to anger quickly. I pushed people away, sometimes during awful fights, when I’d say things I didn’t mean. I was cruel.
While depressed I was convinced things would never get better.
I was originally diagnosed with Bipolar disorder in my mid 20’s, after a suicide attempt. Then a year of two later, I was told they were wrong, all my symptoms were caused by hypoglycemia. Depression set in and I was then diagnosed with clinical depression, and put on antidepressants. These sent me into a major episode of mania. I was taken off the antidepressants and told I had anxiety disorder, with another medication change, and another attempt at suicide.
This roundabout when on for some time. One night, I cut myself numerous times trying to get up enough nerve to cut deeper. Instead I called a suicide help line, and ended up being committed to a mental hospital. This was the best thing that ever happened to me. Even though I was once again misdiagnosed while I was there, with Borderline Personality Disorder, the group sessions were very helpful and I was now in the system. This helped me find a therapist and psychiatrist who understood, and helped me.
After getting on the right medication, my life began to normalize. However, I had learned behaviors to overcome. I’d been undiagnosed for so many years, I only knew how to react to situations as I would before. I over reacted to everything. Not to the extreme I would before, but I only knew to run or fight when confronted with strong emotions. I did not know how to have healthy relationships. Finally, after many years of therapy I feel I am the person I want to be. I don’t blow up (most of the time). I have good relationships. I understand that much of what I did in the past was out of my control, but how I live my life now is my responsibility. And that’s OK with me.
I wanted to add, this is one reason having PMDD/PMS disturbs me so much. I’ve worked very hard to understand my emotions, and control them. When I have these hormonal symptoms I again feel out of control, often so quick to anger it scares me. Scares me more than I can explain. I never want to the person I was before.
As of this writing, I’ve been stable for over 15 years. (with only a few minor episodes when my medication needed adjusting.
I started this post on January 3rd. I do not hide that I’m bipolar. I’m quick to talk about it, to share my experiences so others may get help. However, this was a difficult post to write, remembering who I used to be, the people I hurt, the self-destruction… Mental illness and suicide still carry a lot of stigma. Let’s start talking about it. We need to make sure people are not afraid to seek help. We need to help everyone understand that people with mental illnesses are still people.